[lg policy] Pennsylvania: English please

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 15 22:07:29 UTC 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
English please

Solamente Ingles, por favor.

That was the message Wednesday at a House State Government Committee hearing
on legislation that would designate English as the state’s official

The proposals, being pushed by a pair of GOP lawmakers from Central
Pennsylvania, would essentially require that all official government acts,
documents or transactions occur in English.

The reasoning, its sponsors argue, is simple: English is the “common
language” of the United States - and of Pennsylvania - and that knowing
English is “essential to full exercise of constitutional freedoms, informed
and knowledgeable empowerment as voters, citizen checks against government
abuses and individual prosperity and independence,” according to one of the
two bills being considered by the committee.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), who chairs the committee and supports the
bills, also noted that there is a cost savings to taxpayers, since
government will no longer have to shoulder the cost of translating and
printing documents in other languages. Quite a big deal was made that one of
the Capitol’s tourist brochures is in Spanish.

“I don’t believe that someone who doesn’t know the English language will be
able to realize the American dream,” Metcalfe said in his closing remarks,
also noting that more than half the states have some form of law or
provision concerning the English language.

The conservative Republican then paid homage to the late Joey Vento, owner
of the landmark South Philly cheesesteak shop who made national headlines
when he hung a sign asking customers to “Speak English” when ordering.

“He [Vento] was working to help people, and that is what this legislation
will do - it will help people assimilate in our culture and realize the
American dream,” said Metcalfe.

Rep. Babette Josephs (D., Philadelphia) was having none of that. She called
the legislation “unnecessary, punitive, pointless, divisive, self-defeating
and inconsistent with American values.”

“The message is, if you can’t speak English as well as the native-born … you
are inferior,” she said. “This is a waste of time and energy.”



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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